Good Exam Technique


Exam Skills How to improve your success!

Even if you have followed a good study and revision program,

if you do not have a good exam technique,

many valuable marks can be wasted.


Learn how to maxmise your chances of achieving top marks.


Here are some valuable exam points:

Exam Tips

  • Always attempt every question. If the question is hard, the markers will have to give marks for parts of the question which would normally not attract marks. You will always get NO marks for nothing done, but you may get marks for next to nothing – and every mark helps!
  • Think positively. If you have prepared for the exam, try to be confident. If the exam is hard, don’t worry because chances are that it is hard for most students. Worrying during an exam will have a negative effect on your performance.
  • Always show all working in science/maths subjects, and back up any statements in written subjects. A wrong answer without working gives no marks, however a wrong answer with correct working could achieve some marks. Don't forget any units. Again, every mark helps!
  • Answer the question. You can write a one page answer and receive zero marks. Too often the greatest failure of students in exams is that they do not answer the question. The students who do well in exams are the ones that spend time analysing the question. They identify what is required.
  • Identify the key verb in the question. eg. evaluate, assess, justify, compare, contrast, describe, explain, etc. You should be well aware of what is expected for each verb type. Emphasise the key verb with a highlighter. This will help you analyse the question.
  • Read each question thoroughly and underline what the question is asking. If you only answer half of what the question is asking, you can expect only half the marks so thoroughly check and make sure you understand. For essay questions, take the time to draw up a rough plan to make sure you cover all points, what statements you want to make and how you are going to back them up.
  • Decide the best way to present your information. Are you going to include a table, a carefully labelled diagram, chemical equations or quotations etc. in your answer?
  • Determine how much is the question worth. This will help determine the depth of your answer. Examiners use a marking criteria to award marks. One mark per criterium. You should therefore try to carefully answer each question with more points than marks. This gives you a better chance of answering all of the marking criteria which is needed for higher marks.
  • Prepare for exams with past exam papers. Use as many past papers with answers as possible. "Practice makes perfect"
  • Never run out of time in an exam.  You should go into an exam having prepared roughly how much time to allocate for each question/ section. Stick to this throughout. If you do not finish a question in the allocated time, go on to the next. You can always go back to finish.
  • Try to impress the examiner with your knowledge. Treat the examiner as though he/she knows very little about the topic, so you will need to explain to them everything relevant to the answer. Use all relevant examples and quotes. 
  • Never leave an exam early. If you do happen to finish early – use this valuable time to go over your answers. You will be more relaxed and will be able to think more clearly, and hopefully be able to improve your answers.
  • Always have spare equipment. Particularly a spare calculator and extra pens, pencils.


The day before the exam:

Have an early night. Before going to sleep, review all that is needed. Make sure you have all your equipment ready to go and that it is in working order.

Feel confident that you will do well in the exam. A little bit of anxiety is only natural, but don’t let it worry you.


The exam day:

Have a light but nourishing breakfast. Pack your equipment. Make sure you arrive at the exam room on time. If you find that your friends talking/panicking about possible hard questions and this increases your nervousness, then stay away from them prior to the exam. Think only of success. Wear a watch or make sure you can see the clock.


The exam:

Enter your vital information such as name and identification number in the correct location.

When allowed, make sure you read all the exam instructions carefully; do not assume it is the same as previous years or past papers.  Plan the amount of time you will spend on each section or essay, including reading and re-reading.  Make sure that the amount of time you spend for each question is proportional to their marks.

If there is an unexpected question, don’t panic, go onto the next one. Make sure you stick to your time plan and that you have the time to go over and check your answers.